This Felt Familiar…
We’ve been here before. Or at least close to it. Just a year ago, the fans and the team entered the third preseason game with the expectation that the Bears would show something against the defending Super Bowl Champions. At halftime of that game, the Bears trailed 31-0.
This one wasn’t quite as bad, but the Bengals are not the 2014 Seahawks, especially not with a quarterbacking duo of Andy Dalton and A.J. McCarron. But this was bad. There were far too many instances where I felt like I was watching the 2014 Bears again. Unlike the 2014 Bears, the 2015 Bears have a coaching staff capable of making evaluations and adjustments.
There’s always a thought that the third preseason game somehow means something. In 2010, the Bears trailed Arizona 7-0 at halftime of the third preseason game. The Bears went 11-5 and played in the NFC Championship game, the Cardinals finished 5-11.
On the offensive side…
• Charles Leno Jr. might become a good tackle one day, but that isn’t happening any time soon and the Bears need to sit him down until he isn’t terrible anymore. Leno looks like he’s thinking too much, which is causing him to play slow. He’s been strictly at left tackle his entire NFL career before switching sides two weeks ago. That means a complete change in footwork and hand placement, the two areas he’s struggling. That’s why he might figure it out one day and become adequate and maybe even good, but, until then, they need to figure something else out.
What’s the alternative? We already know Jordan Mills can’t play, Michael Ola was OK at right tackle last year, but he hasn’t looked good in the preseason either. Moving Kyle Long doesn’t appear to be an option anymore as the interior depth isn’t much better. It’s going to be a problem throughout the season, something they’re going to have to scheme around.
• Jermon Bushrod hasn’t been much better than Leno or Mills. Bushrod is 31 and has a bad back, his days of being an adequate tackle are probably over. It might be time to try him on the right side with Leno moving back to his more familiar position. It couldn’t hurt.
• The struggles upfront made it difficult to judge anyone else on the offense. Cutler looked good, but his failure to lead Rashad Lawrence on a third-and-long play might have cost them a first down. Lawrence had a step on his defender, but the ball was slightly behind him, causing him to slow down. He still might have gotten the first down had he not dropped the pass. Although it was a little behind him, it’s a catch Lawrence needed to make.
On the defensive side…
• Last year, the Bears two best players in the secondary and two of their best defensive players overall were Tim Jennings and Ryan Mundy. Now, they might both be backups and it wouldn’t be a shock if they didn’t make the team.
Mundy being a backup is understandable. They want someone with more range next to Rolle, who has none. The Jennings benching is confusing. I hadn’t heard of any struggles from him in camp and he was good in the first two preseason games, certainly better than any of their other cornerbacks. But he didn’t play until the second quarter and ended up playing in the fourth. Of course, he stunk, which might be something they’ve been seeing consistently in practice.
Another note about it was that Fuller was switched over to the left side that Jennings has manned for the last five years. Jennings is a veteran who found a home on that side and probably didn’t want to switch, his “benching” could have been disciplinary. Fuller, meanwhile, looked as good as he has since early last season.
• The Bears didn’t use a cornerback in their goal line package, instead putting an extra linebacker in with Brock Vereen.
• How did the Bears limit Andrew Luck a week ago and get destroyed by Dalton this week? A lack of pass rush. If the Bears defense is going to crack the top-20 this year, they need to get to the other team’s quarterback consistently. That didn’t happen against the Bengals and they were carved up by mediocre quarterbacks.
• Twitter was blowing up with people calling out Shea McClellin’s coverage woes, but they really weren’t that bad. There were a couple underneath passes in which McClellin was right there to make the tackle and the 25-yard pass play which was a good throw and catch. Who knew Dalton was capable of making a back-shoulder throw in traffic?
Benching Shea for Jon Bostic or Mason Foster won’t fix the coverage issues. They’ve both had their struggles in that department this preseason and throughout their NFL careers.
• When the Bears have both Eddie Goldman and Jeremiah Ratliff on their defensive line, they’re tough to run on. They both constantly get push into the backfield, but when both are out, the Bears are in trouble.
Will Sutton has made more plays than any other Bears defensive lineman, but he can’t play nose tackle this scheme. Sutton was destroyed by a double team on Jeremy Hill’s 26-yard run. We already know Ratliff is going to miss the first three games, if Goldman misses significant time with his concussion, the Bears are going to have to figure something else out or Eddie Lacy is going to run for 200 yards on them in Week 1.